Friday, December 30, 2005

December 30 Rant



What is up with spitting?

I just wanna know what the deal is with spitting?

Is it sexy? No. I so don’t want to be kissing someone, or having them kiss me, after they’ve horked up a wad of green goo

Is it healthy? No, it is disgusting and leaves some idiot’s germs all over the street for the rest of us to walk in.

Does it help the environment? Yeah, if you’re a microbe!

So here’s a clue for all you spitters out there. Everyone who sees you do it is feeling their own bile come up. We’d all like to barf on your feet, but we are too well-mannered to play on your dirty field.

Disgusting.

No, you don’t look cool. You’re a pig.

Simple.

Now stop it!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Damned Christmas, Reprise...


Damned Christmas, reprise: Scapegoat for Dinner

Note: Help and resources at the end of this post


True to form they are, my family; true to form. A person cannot fault them for their unending consistency, although the reasons they are consistent are certainly suspect.


Due to a very interesting parenting style, my mother has managed to instill a very firm foundation of insecurity and narcissism with two of my siblings. That insecurity, which she also has, manifests in scapegoating – of me – and has for as long as I can remember, and extreme bullying by my sisters towards certain others, often me and usually women. My youngest sister does not trust women and my middle sister makes a great show of having many female friends.

The first memories I have of me being the family scapegoat – and I obviously didn’t realize what it was then – were the foggy feelings that whatever was wrong with my mother and her relationship with my father was somehow my fault. I know now that I remind my mother very uncomfortably of my father, who she called selfish, but who was probably more self-protective. The whole basis for the beginnings of this abuse was that my mother would not acknowledge her part in the failure of her marriage and so needed something to hang it on: me. She resorted to shaming me and continued it until I was 35 (she tries to yet).

During one particularly difficult year, my mother hauled me off to a shrink. It was such a terrifying experience that I remembered only two things: the first meeting and one subsequent family "therapy" session. Later on, when I was 25, following a terrible fight with my mother (she was, among other things, belittling me, my husband and my father and trying to physically take my one-year-old out of my house, which resulted in the police coming...), I tracked down said shrink, and found out there had actually been eight sessions.

I asked for permission to read the transcripts of those sessions. I was not allowed to photo copy them, as my mother had not given permission for me to read them, but I did copy them down, by hand. Among the copious notes was a comment from the Therapist, Betty Wickens, that my mother was using me as a scapegoat for all that was wrong with her life.

In present times, my youngest sister who has had almost nothing but failure in her life until quite recently (and it is tenuous at best now), transfers her anger, guilt and whatever other negative feelings she has to me. Somehow, her blaming me for anything and everything makes her feel better – for a minute. She seems not to notice she is still entirely a fuck up. (Update, 2012; we have an excellent relationship now and have waded through our experiences of our family and come out as allies).

The middle child, my other sister, was the very innocent witness to years of my mothers abuse towards me. She was powerless and invisible and now suffers from a huge lack of self-esteem, despite being well-liked and successful. She takes anything said to her, no matter how much out of concern or interest, as criticism and reacts violently. She is unaware that she is acting out years of witnessing my mother abuse me (update: .. .being generally abusive). She is also unaware that she is trying to resolve being the witness by visiting the same horrible treatment on her son and daughter and her now ex-spouse.

As can be expected, when these people are stressed and unhappy, they go very much on the attack. Recently, my niece was visiting Paris with her mother. They met a charming man there. He toured them about the city, brought them out for dinner and made their visit quite magical. My niece, although she did not know this man at all well, and despite his being 9 years her senior (she is was 18), decided to return to Paris and to stay with him a week.

I have a very coloured past (A Short, True Story) so am in no position to judge her decision. I was, however, quite concerned and communicated that to my sister, who took my concern as a serious criticism of her parenting abilities. She took me so to task by phone that I had to hang up on her. She is not secure enough to hear concern; she only hears criticism. She is painfully aware that she overreacts to many things, but is also painfully unable to apologise.

My youngest sister does not tolerate change at all, due mostly to having lived a highly unstable life. Recently, she has suffered an major, unanticipated change to her work situation. She communicated her fear and frustration by lashing out at me, quite out of the blue, over Christmas dinner last night. She left the family gathering (gifts in hand, it should be noted), but the damage had been done and the scapegoating commenced in earnest, which resulted in my departure as well.

Prior to leaving, however, I did advise my mother that, after 30 years of it and of her letting it go on – even encouraging it – I was finished with being the scapegoat for my sisters’ insecurities, anger, aggression and fears.

My mother, for her part, has developed two scapegoats: anything that my sisters do or ever have done wrong is, according to her, due to my having taught them how. The great dysfunction in our family she blames on my now-deceased father. According to her, everything that is wrong with how I and my sister turned out has to do with him being a weak and absent father. Much against his personal and religious convictions, he was so abused by her that he was forced to divorce her. He would not rise to her bait in life and cannot now. It must be so frustrating for her.

My sister's marriage has recently failed. Her abuse of her spouse and her children has caused much pain in her own family. My mother conveniently ignores my sister's part in it all, alternately blaming me and my ex-brother-in-law.

The rest of the family is following a predictable path of weariness; a ‘not again’ attitude that permeates any gathering where two or more siblings are present. As my mother is what she calls “faithful,” and “evangelical,” or "born-again," there are three major family events per year, if one doesn’t include birthdays (I avoid those at all costs). All of them are, for me, painful and sad.

Scapegoating and Bullying are pretty much one and the same. My sisters have used bullying against me for years, and both have also employed shame. My next-youngest sister denied she even knew me when we were in school (we look very much alike, so the relationship was clear, despite her denial). My youngest sister also shames me by criticising my riding - but I'm a pleasure rider and I don't care if my technique isn't perfect....

What’s the point of this post? Beyond that I needed to get it off my hairy, goat chest, nothing, other than leaving it here for others who are aware, or becoming aware they are the family target.

Further information: follow any of the links in this page for scapegoat resources and help.
The Scapegoat Society
Scapegoats, Scapegoating Psychodynamics

This page is an excellent resource for people who have been and/or currently are being scapegoated in their families: Family Fun: Words that Hurt
Nasty Women: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them

Your comments are always welcome and I will be happy to refer you to other sources of help.

WriterWriter

Saturday, December 17, 2005

More: Mr. Martin Stands for Canada

Prime Minister Paul Martin demonstrated resoundingly that he alone had the qualities of statesmanship by standing up for Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the French Leaders debate on December 15.

“We need Quebec’s energy, its momentum, at the national level. When we work together, nothing can stop us,” the Prime Minister said when asked about national unity.

[Mr. Martin highlighted the facts that Canada has] one of the strongest economies in the world, record job growth, lower public debt and strategic investments in health care, the environment, cities and innovation.

He reminded voters that it was he – and he alone – who had the courage to get to the bottom of the sponsorship mess by appointing the Gomery Inquiry.

Above all the Prime Minister hammered home the stark differences in vision and values that distinguishes the Liberal plan from that of Gilles Duceppe and Stephen Harper.

He was especially strong in his exchanges with Gilles Duceppe on national unity, showing clearly that Duceppe and the separatists’ obsession on working with Andre Boisclair is to divide Quebecers one from another with a referendum.

“When the majority of MPs from Quebec are there just to put up obstacles rather than working with the rest of the country, it hinders the ability of Quebec –and Canada – to succeed. This is not the time for division. It is time to work together,” the Prime Minister said.

And Stephen Harper showed once again that he is unwilling to show the candor that Canadians expect of their leaders on questions of fundamental values.

[Harper] said tonight the he would not invoke the notwithstanding clause to revoke the Charter Rights conferred on same-sex couples by the courts. But he also said he would enforce a vote to defy courts and restore the traditional definition of marriage.

He knows he cannot do both, yet he won’t admit it. He is either not telling his social conservative base the truth or he is not telling the rest of us the truth. He has to come clean.

The Prime Minister immediately confronted Mr. Harper about this duplicity, saying, “Either Mr. Harper is going to try to change the law of the country that protects the rights and freedoms of gays and lesbians or he's not going to. If he's going to use the notwithstanding clause, he should say so, and the people will at least know what his position is.”

NDP leader Jack Layton’s inability to explain his recent reversal on private health care left Canadians wondering why he chose to join Mr. Harper and Mr. Duceppe to force this election.

Canadians expect a Prime Minister to be a statesman – to focus not on the next election but the next generation. In the first of four debated in this campaign, Prime Minister Paul Martin lived up to that expectation.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Canada: A Sovereign Country!

Canada: Sovereign, Independent Country

This week, our Prime Minister has been attacked by the Canadian Press for speaking out against US involvement in this election and for standing up for Canadians in respect to softwood lumber and defense. (Canadian Telecommunications Law)

It is disgusting to have our own country’s press attacking our Prime Minister for standing up for our rights and our resources and for reminding Canadians that we are NOT part of the US and we do not have to kowtow to a neighbour that resorts to threats and bullying to get its way. (Ethical Journalism)

US politicians have no right to dictate to our country’s leaders what they will say and how they will act. We are absolutely within our constitutional and national rights to defend ourselves against US involvement in our affairs. We are a sovereign country. We are NOT an offshoot of the US.

The US ambassador to Canada should be silenced in his own country for commenting on a Canadian election. He’s not from here and has nothing to do with us and so should butt out and and button up.

Here’s to you, Mr. Martin, for standing up for your country, regardless of the Canadian Press that whores itself out to US government lackeys and regardless of the media skewering you for doing exactly what a Prime Minister should do: Speak for his country.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Fallacy of Race

I did some writing -- or threatening - a while back to discuss the concept "race", as a political term.

Before I get into this blog, I want it clear that I DO intend to make you think and I hope that you will do some reading or writing or something that is not at all like buying into a long-term, unchallenged political construct that has caused and continues to cause unending misery and chaos planet-wide.

Background
I come from a mixed family, meaning that from as always as I can remember, there have been people of every skin colour and ethnic background possible in our family or attached to our family or somehow in our lives.

So what? Well, see, when you grow up like that, you realise that skin, like any other body organ, does not define a person. You also see skin as nothing other than the stuff that holds your guts in.

It takes a long time -- and usually an unenlightened adult -- to even make you aware that there is anything particularly different about the people in your family. It took a long time to even really understand that these people were not my family members in the north American way of thinking. It's like kids who have really ugly parents: until someone points it out to them, those kids don't even think about how their parents look. They're just mom/dad. What they look like doesn't enter into the picture.

So, some years ago, whilst having a discussion with my then-mother-in-law about my mixed family and their 'race', as she put it, I mentioned the fact that the term 'race' serves a divisive political construct. She, not being particularly educated, nor interested in much beyond sending money to televangelists, told me I was spoiled and that I read too much. Wow. Touché!

I realised, however, from her defensive comment, that she (and lots and lots of people) didn't want to consider how they think about things because that might cause reconsideration and, for some reason - probably because it would turn their world on its head - that would be bad.... Hence the defensive comment.

She was right in saying that I read too much (is there such a thing as too much reading?). While in college, I had happily discovered Stephen J. Gould, who taught at Harvard and wrote wonderful, thoughtful essays about all things evolutionary. One of these essays, in "Dinosaur in a Haystack" deals specifically with this ridiculous idea of race being anything real. The essay is much more profound than I might make it seem here, so forgive my simplifying: a point I remember specifically from the essay had to do with mitochondrial DNA and how there are some 32 markers that occur in the population worldwide that are NOT specific to anyone's skin colour, religion or country of origin.

What this means is that, regardless of your skin colour, you probably share these DNA markers with millions of people who are completely unlike you in respect to their hair/skin/colour/ethnicity. Somewhere along the line, Mr. and Mrs. Racist, you originated from the same mother as everyone else did and that mother came from somewhere in Africa. You might call her Eve, but she's the same mom every modern human has in common. The likelihood that she was a blond, blue-eyed person is, well,... there's no likelihood.

So how did we get to the point of separating humans along the lines of what colour their exterior organs are?

It is true that what we don't understand scares the crap out of us and also true, for most people at least, that we'd rather kill what we don't understand (fight) or run away and hide under a rock (flight). In the case of people who look and act differently, back in the good old days, we started by killing them (we being people of every type in every corner of the world). Later, we realised that those different people might be better at lifting the heavy stuff and being sweaty and working hard, so we just turned them into slaves, destroyed their families, their family structure, their culture and language and did that via the use of a divisive term: race, otherwise known as "those people".

As it did then and continues to do, defining people on the basis of their skin colour and calling that 'race' serves the ruling class by separating people from each other and diverting their attention from other really important stuff -- like their previous Prime Minister spending billions paying "advertising companies" to promote Canada, or their President spending $40 million on a one-day party in a country where illiteracy is rampant.

Race has nothing to do with skin colour, really. Take Rwanda for instance. From where I sit, two groups of people in a country whose people are almost all dark skinned, decided to kill each other. Those people somehow managed to see each other as different 'races'. Really, it was a huge, terrible, devastating political power play that left a lot of people dead and millions more totally confused and incapable of trusting anyone. The conflict also slaughtered the country's economy.

In reality, there is no such thing as race. There is no difference under the skin between people whose skin colour differs. In fact, according to William Marples, a forensic anthropologist, it is largely impossible, in the absence of any external clues, to determine the 'race' of a skeleton.

Skin colour is an adaptive feature. It simply made evolutionary/biological sense for humans to adapt to the heat/cold/environment they lived in, way back when.

Why don't people morph now, you ask? What has happened to the evolutionary process? Well, as points out Dr. Gould in another of his essays (same book), when the animal cannot act on its environment, its biology will undergo change. Where the animal CAN act on its environment, and can control the variables, certain adaptive changes become unnecessary. So, if you're living in the Australian outback, in constant sun, your hair and skin don't have to evolve 'cause you can get a hat and a T-shirt.

I would argue, however, that as we live in such a polluted world, our bodies have adapted -- evolved, if you will -- to accommodate pollution. We've also evolved to handle diseases that would have killed entire populations in days gone by, but which make us only mildly ill. So yes, the evolutionary process is still at work.

As for race, though, back in the day, many terrified, uneducated people, who, confronted with people who were vastly different than they, dealt with their fear and ignorance by subjugating or killing those they feared.

A note about that lack of education: by no means can those people way back when be faulted for being terrified when coming across others who were different and probably scary looking. No TV/radio/internet meant that a person could go their whole lives believing that all people looked as they did and never seeing anything to counter that knowledge.

In modern times - our times-- it is inexcusable to separate humans based on what we know scientifically to be a non-starter. There is one 'race,' being human, which is comprised of a zillion different types of hair, eyes, noses, face shapes and skin colours.

One argument suggested to me to establish the reality of 'race' is that certain diseases are more common in certain 'racial' groups. On the face of it, yes, some are; but this argument breaks down because those diseases can be passed on outside of those groups. The only real argument about diseases being more common with one group or another has to do with genetics: some family groups have a greater incidence of certain diseases but if those family groups mix with other family groups who have completely dissimilar characteristics, and who do not have a propensity to a certain disease, that disease can still be passed along into the progeny of this new blend. No disease that is specific to any one 'race' because the genetic markers for the disease can be passed on.

Just because something is more common with some people doesn't make 'race' a reality: it just means that people have more closely shared a bunch of genes. If that were the case, then fat people who are prone to heart disease would be a 'race.'

If people recognized they've been had by the machine and chose to disregard the political construct 'race,' it would be so much more difficult for those in political power to divert people's attention from more significant issues. Imagine if we didn't say "That's a black issue" or "That's a White issue," or "That's an Oriental issue," but if we said, "This concerns all of us and we're pissed off about it."

This is the challenge: consider how the term 'race' has been used to manipulate you, how you act, and vote; how you view political issues, and issues specific to identifiable groups; what effect and cost the establishment of special interest groups (those formed on the basis of physical characteristics) has on your local, provincial/state, and national government.

Here's the other challenge: choose to be blind to 'race'.

Monday, December 05, 2005

WINTER

Canadian Winters….

So, today in the paper, there was an article about snow removal in Calgary. The lady who wrote it said she was ‘forced to wear grips’ on her boots when she went outside, because the city doesn’t legislate that people have to shovel their back lanes….

I think it is so funny how, every year, people in this city treat snow, bad roads, cold and winter in general like they’ve never seen it before!

Good boots – and grips if you have’em, - are a great idea in this city. Chinooks, which we get about seven times a year, will easily reduce a pile of snow to an icy, slippery patch of potential injury in about 2 hours.

It is totally amazing to me what people in this rich city have to moan about. Yes, people ought to shovel their walks for sure -- common courtesy -- but people also have to have some personal responsibility. If you're afraid you're going to encounter some snow on your walk and if you're older and concerned about falling -- or even if you're not older but still concerned about a fall, get some grips. They're cheap and they will allow you to WIN over those other people who don't shovel.

As for shovelling, just do it. Common courtesy and personal responsiblity - honour - also apply here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DAMNED Christmas Holidays

A response to the Christmas Tree/Holiday item in the Herald, November 29th 2005

I had a great laugh today at the latest entry in the campaign to discredit our Governor General. Christmas trees. Oi. Seems one of her more keener -type staffers, in an honest effort not to alienate anyone, called the Governor General's tree a holiday tree. That set off a great hew and cry. What the hell? Don't people have shopping to do and an election to consider?

First of all, Christmas trees are a stolen tradition that does not originate with Christians. Secondly, the Christmas celebration itself has it roots firmly in and is hijacked from ancient pagan tradition.

A quick Google search turns up hundreds of articles on the origins of both the tradition of using trees at festivals and how the Romans, in an effort to spread their politics and manage the masses, spread Christianity by outlawing pagan traditions and replacing ancient festivals with re-named, watered down versions.

Check out any of these:
http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/sina21224.htm
http://www.msu.edu/user/rohdemar/earth/sabbats/yule.html
http://www.byzant.com/festivals/yule.asp

According to an article on FabulousFoods.com, at their festivals and celebrations, ancient druids and Celts usedthe ‘christmas’ type tree trees to represent their gods as that tree never browned or lost its leaves, but remained perpetually alive. Ancient Scandinavian pagans brought live trees into their homes in order to entice faeries to follow.

The use of live trees at festivals greatly pre-dates Christianity’s very existence. The first use of cut trees at any Christian festival occurred barely 500 years ago.

The origins of the December holiday have far more to do with pagan traditions than anything to do with Christ’s birth. What Christians take as their holy holiday is based on a 4000 year-old Iranian tradition celebrating Mithra, the god of Light.

Further, according biblical references to sheep in the fields, Christ’s birth did not occur in the winter months, given December is rainy and cold in the part of the world where Christ was born. Sheep and shepherds would have been well into the fold by then, not hanging out in soggy, cold fields.

The reality is that when the Romans were on their path of domination, they outlawed the old ways and the old traditions. What modern Christians claim as their traditions simply are not. All Christian holidays are borrowed, revised traditions that were enforced by a powerful political engine intent on major social control.

In light of the limitless information on the origins of Christmas trees and the Christmas holiday, this insignificant issue of what flavour-of-the-week name should be applied to a cut tree hardly bears discussing. For those who claim certain groups are taking Christ out of Christmas, it behooves them to understand how and why Christ got in there in the first place.

Smokers are dumb; Businesses that support Smoking are POOR

In late April, my spouse and children and I were in Ottawa for a week. While there we had a lunch and a dinner at D’arcy McGee’s, a busy, popular pub just a block south of Parliament. While in there one afternoon, we noticed a troupe of seven kids come in – and stay – which prompted a question to our server: how was it the kids could come in and stay in a pub?

It was because the place was smoke free! Ottawa is smoke free! Bars, restaurants, businesses, you name it, it’s smokeless. We were aghast, particularly when the server told us that after a small decrease in clientele – for less than a month -- business was not only good, it was far better than it had been when smoking had been allowed. I understand businesses in both Vancouver and Winnipeg have had the same experience.

Here are some known facts:
· Non-smokers tend to have more years of education than smokers
· Due to that higher education, among a few factors, non-smokers have higher incomes; some estimates say 30% higher
· Non-smokers have more disposable income
· About 70% of Calgary’s adult population does not smoke
· Smoking is a huge contributor to lung and other related cancers
· Smoking is very likely to leave a person sick with avoidable illnesses
· Smoking is cannot in any way be considered good for children – to do, to see or to be around
· Smoking-related illnesses cause a large, avoidable strain on an already burdened health care system!
· Second hand smoke also causes smoking-related illnesses
· Yes, people have the right to smoke. NO, they do not have the right to force unwilling others to consume the by-products of their habit
· Smoking patrons are an occupational hazard to people working in establishments that allow smoking
· Smokers standing around entrances to businesses are a deterrent to non-smokers entering due to the stink among a few things
· Discarded cigarette butts at the entrances to business and ashtrays dumped in parking lots are a deterrent to anyone entering said businesses

So, based on those ‘facts’ why would any Calgary business maintain a smoking environment that limits its access to the entire market rather than opening their business to all possible patrons in the market? It makes economic sense to attract the larger, perhaps wealthier portion of the population in addition to those who already come.

We spoke to several people – smokers – in Ottawa about that city’s non-smoking policy: all of them said they were glad for the change; as much as they were unwilling or unable to give up their habit, they were glad to not have to suffer other people smoking while eating or at a bar, and to not come home reeking of second hand smoke. None of them found it a bother to not smoke while they were out or to go outside if necessary. The bottom line is that a non-smoking environment does not limit patronage or negatively impact revenues; extensive evidence from Winnipeg, Vancouver and Ottawa shows the reality is quite the opposite.

In my educated opinion, that 70% of Calgarians who don’t smoke, and a good portion of those who do, would gladly accept clean air restaurants and bars and other public places. Seriously, if it works and in Ireland, where the change is wildly popular, I am positive it will work in Calgary.

I really hope the current hold-outs on council will consider the economic benefit to people, families, kids and businesses and ultimately the city by making Calgary smoke free in 2006. January 1st 2006 would be a GREAT date.

Think about this: Assuming $9.50 per pack, smoking 1 pack a day for one year costs something like $3,468.00

  • That is more than 3000 litres of gas at $1.14 and almost 3500 when gas is under $1.
  • Assuming a mid sized car with a 60 litre tank, that’s enough to drive to Vancouver and back about 20 times. It is also enough to drive across Canada – Calgary to Halifax and back – five times.
  • That’s books and half a year’s tuition at MRC.
  • That’s nearly half a year’s worth of mortgage payments assuming $800/month and that’s about a year’s worth of car payments on a really decent lease (Ok, not for a Bmer or anything…).
  • That’s enough to put two kids into hockey or three kids into dance lessons for a year.
  • It is enough to build a new fence on a normal inner city lot; it is enough to repaint and carpet the interior of a bungalow.
  • It is enough for a new roof or furnace.
  • It is enough for a certain amount of lipo, if that’s on a person’s wish list.
  • It is enough to go to London, England for about 10 days, with money left over for shopping (Discount Travel Warehouse /Easy Jet).
  • It’s enough to rent a houseboat for 10 for a week.
  • It is almost five months of groceries for a family of four assuming $200 a week.
  • It is enough for annual subscriptions to all of Theatre Calgary, Theatre Junction, ATP, OYR and a bunch of independent theatre companies.
  • It is enough to stage a whole play for some of those small companies!
  • It is almost the 5% required for a down payment on $70,000. There are still places to buy in Calgary for that amount.
  • Putting that $3470 smoking money aside for two years is pretty much the 5% down payment on a $138,000 condo.
  • It is enough for about 4 years of monthly bus passes.
  • It is enough for a really excellent road bike (a la Lance Armstrong).
  • It is enough for about 5 years’ gym membership – or nearly 10 years’ membership to the gym at MRC or U of C for alumnus.
  • It is a huge, beneficial donation to STARS or the Children’s hospital – and provides a nice tax break. Making the donation to STARS or Children’s hospital rather than smoking might keep a person out of either of those places.
  • In a family of four, using that $3470 for something other than smoking might also prevent two kids from taking up smoking, destroying their health and having a further $6940 per year spent on a nasty habit.
  • It is more than enough for annual family passes to all of The Zoo, Heritage Park, the Science Centre and Lindsay Park and for nosh at those places.
  • It is a TON of skiing and rentals at COP and it is lots and lots for lessons and gear for a season at the big 3.
  • It is about enough for two years’ seasons passes too.
  • It is enough for a family of four to go to the movies over 80 times.
  • It is enough for a huge TV, cable for two years, a VCR and DV player and a lot of popcorn and movie rentals.
  • It is enough to take 10 - 12 continuing education courses at either U of C or MRC.
  • Giving up smoking for 5 years at today’s cost would provide a person enough money to get an undergrad degree at U of C or an applied Degree at MRC.
  • It is enough to learn five languages through Berlitz.
  • It is twice as much as most people get back from their tax refund – and speaking of tax, what is the tax on $3470 worth of cigarettes, keeping in mind a person is paying for those cigarettes with after-tax income! Twice the tax for an unhealthy habit. NOT smart.
  • It is enough for about 57 oil changes.
  • It is enough to put about 7 new energy-efficient windows in an older home.
  • It is enough for four winters worth of shovelling services and four summers of lawn care services.
  • It is enough for about 100 taxi trips from the airport to downtown.
  • It is enough for 2 or more kids to ride the school bus to school and home during the school year for over 15 years!
  • That’s a two week holiday to Disneyland for a family of 4 and it is a really nice trip to Mexico for a couple.
  • It is a nice RSP contribution.
  • It is enough for a lovely engagement ring or anniversary ring; it is also enough for some decent clubs and many rounds of golf.
  • It is enough for a bouquet of roses every week for about 2.5 years.
  • It is enough for a couple to have 25 gorgeous meals (about $150 a pop) at the Chicago Chop House or 135 meals at Peter’s Drive-In for a family of 4.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Things One Remembers Whilst Brushing Teeth

There is a certain comic value to free association, I discovered the other day, whilst brushing my teeth. Most adults, as they mature, let go of old hurts an slights. Occasionally, however, those old wounds get a bit of a bump at the oddest moment.

Did you ever have one of those times, where you're happily doing your mindless thing and one of those old memories -- the kind that piss you off -- resurfaces?

This letter, which will never be read by the offending -- or at least is highly unlikely to be read by them -- is what I would have said had I been a stronger person, once upon a time.

Once upon a time at a funeral in Edmonton.

1987

Dear Aunt Margaret,

We came today to celebrate the life of your mother, our grandmother and great grandmother and my grandma-in-law.

I’m new to the family. I’ve been married to your nephew for a bit over 7 months. I don’t know you and your spouse, although I met you once before now, at my wedding. You didn’t speak to me then, but thanks for coming.

Today’s difficult for everyone. My spouse has lost his grandmother and my father-in-law his mother. I have no idea how close you are to each other or were to your mother, but I get that because we don’t see or hear much of you or your family, you aren’t’ that close.

Anyway, I’ve come to the funeral because she was my husband’s grandmother, not because I knew her well, although I wish I had. I’m sure she had many stories to tell and lived an interesting life.

Because I don’t know anyone here beyond the immediate family, I’m staying out of the way. This isn’t my event or even my family – yet. So I don’t understand why, on this sad occasion, when I came to offer my condolences to you, in private, you would choose to load off your anger and disappointment on me. I have no idea what you’re angry about, although I hear you’re a jealous woman – jealous of your living brother and I suppose pissed off at your brother who died by his own hand; they took the focus off you and it is plain you are desperate for attention.

Are you annoyed that your only daughter, who is so outwardly accomplished and beautiful, married a man who spent all of his and all of her her money on his cocaine addition? Are you mad that your jealousy destroyed your relationship with your living family? Are you pissed because your father died and left you?

I don’t know what I represent to you or why you’ve decided you hate my guts. But you should know it doesn’t matter at all what you think of me. All I’ll take away from your outburst is that you’re weak and angry and you needed somewhere to hang it all.

I’ll give it to you that you did hurt me by making it so plain you wish I hadn’t come to your mother’s funeral. Your comment to my spouse, that it was very nice to see him, made while pointedly ignoring me, did sting. He either really loves you or is terrified of you (probably), because he didn’t stand up for me. What have you done in the past to merit that fear?

Congratulations; you did stick the knife in. But that makes you no better than anyone else who for no other reason than self-satisfaction, injures or kills another person. It won’t eliminate your anger, won’t change anything and it will add to your pain and your disappointment, when someday, you realize that you’ve lived your life hating.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why Women's Libidos Decrease


On November 15th, the Calgary Herald published an article by Corky Siemaszko of the New York Daily News about a new drug to treat so-called 'desire disorders' in women (and men).

I have news for the developers of this drug. Women don't have desire disorders. They have FAT, bald, ugly, uneducated spouses/partners disorder. THAT's what the problem is.

Believe me, no woman has a desire disorder when there is a young, studly, smart man available and willing.

Want proof? Put a photo of Brad Pitt, Sean Connery, Denzel Washington (insert, healthy hunk here) and pretty much every woman will have NO desire problems at all.

Give her a photo of her fat, smelly, uninvolved, boring spouse/partner and yah, she's going to have desire problems.

See, the thing with too many men is that they are so clued out. They think they can look, smell, behave however they want -- usually badly -- but still have the right to expect whatever they deem perfection from their woman. Such accounts for the plethora of skin mags (and yeah, Cosmo and the like are included in that bunch) targeted to men, regardless of supposedly being marketed to women.

There isn't a woman in the world (ok, straight women) who, given a gorgeous, hardbody babe, with delicious skin, lovely hair, brushed teeth, a cultivated mind and a willingness to do her bidding in bed that would have the least problem with desire (I'm assuming here that said women would dispense with any ridiculous religious strictures that might otherwise unnecessarily impede their desire -- no drug is going to cure that irrationality).

For men whose women are having so-called desire problems, try this before you resort to taking drugs yourself or administering drugs to your partner:
  • lose 60 lbs. Your gut and your rolls are disgusting.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day, not twice a week, and lay off the onion sandwiches.
  • Do not burp or fart in front of your spouse/partner. It is NOT sexy. It is disgusting.
  • Get a decent haircut. If you are combing over, STOP IT! You look like an IDIOT.
  • Cut that mullet. It is not cool; you look like a 70s left-over.
  • You do NOT know everything. You're only fooling yourself. You SOUND like and idiot.
  • Learn the difference between intimacy and sex. Sex you can do by yourself. Intimacy requires a partner
  • Get a frigging LIFE. Yes, football and hockey are fun but they are not LIFE. They are entertainment.
If you're unwilling or unable to follow the above RULES, then suck it up pal: your woman should and occasionally will go find some lovely hunk to get it on with and NO, she won't have ANY problem doing it. For HOURS.


As for drugs to 'cure' desire disorders, people, you're being duped for millions and millions of your hard-earned dollars. Especially those of you in the US, where Big Pharma has medicalised pretty much everything, you're being sucked dry.

Don't be stupid. Not being turned on by your fat, stupid, yucky partner has more to do with their lack of education and their dependence on far too much fast food -- far too much of any food -- than it does with a disorder.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why don't People Read?

Well, I never.... Actually, I usually... am surprised by how little of what people read they actually understand and how much they let their emotions get away with them.


A letter I wrote was published in our local newspaper. The subject was twofold: that homosexulaity and heterosexuality (and everything in between, I think) have existed since time eternal; and that the bible, being an oral history that was finally written down many years after the characters in question had passed, is probably missing a bunch of stuff.

This is the text of the original letter, not the edited version that appeared:


"I am confused to see a professed Christian writing that acceptance and tolerance are new age precepts, and then in the same letter quote a passage about acceptance and tolerance. Is the writer saying that acceptance and tolerance only apply for Christians when the issue does not concern same sex intimacy?

Homosexuality has existed along side heterosexuality from the beginning of time, whether people like it or not. Men in Spartan society were removed from their family at the age of 9 and grew up rarely seeing women. Sexual intimacy between Spartan men was the norm, where sexual intimacy between men and women was a difficult and unfortunate necessity for those men. There are many more recent examples of societies wherein homosexuality is the norm.

For the record, the four gospels, which record sayings and quotes attributed to Christ, were written many years after Christ had purportedly died at the age of 33. The gospel of Matthew was written fully sixty years after Christ’s death and the other three gospels after that yet. It is more accurate to say “It is believed that Christ said …”

The bible is the record of an oral history later committed to paper long after the players in question had departed this life. It may have been inspired by some people’s understanding of God, but it was written by fallible humans.

It is entirely probable that much of what Christ said was never recorded and probable that some of what he said was edited out of the record by people who didn’t agree with everything they heard. It is worthwhile considering what might be missing from the texts."

The fellow who rebutted me intimated that I'd made statements, rather than suggestions. He did not, however, respond to the two core items in the letter, being the whole acceptance thing and the realities of the human condition. So I hope, that by trying to discredit what I'd written, the rebutter managed to call some further interest to my letter and to show up his core intolerance and that of those who think like him.

Re the whole Sparta thing, it seems that Spartan society was very focused on military and strength (overpowerment) pursuits that their society became quite segregated in some ways. There's a link here to some information BUT CAUTION IS ADVISED because the word Spartan, combined with homosexual will get you all SORTS of weird and wonderful gay and transvestite sex sites. I make no comment on whether those are good or bad, so please police yourself and engage in whatever censorship you feel is appropriate to your own sensibilities.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


This is a photo that my daughter, Alex, took sometime during the last week or so. It was taken in a lovely home in south eastern England, in a village called Up Nately, which is very famous for its old canals and what's left of the old brickworks, among other things.

Up Nately is also home to a huge colony of bats, the largest in England, which are protected by the crown. Nice, hey?





Alex is my bohemian child. She's completely and utterly a creative force unto herself. She takes great photos and makes great art. Remember this page, so you can say "I knew her when..."


Clarification: Illogical Statements

WHAT????
Just to clarify and reinforce some of my opinion in "Illogical Statements," here's a bit of further comment.



1. In North America, there is no prohibition on access to birth control information

2. There is also no prohibition on access to actual birth control

3. Unless a person is living in the woods, there is always a way to get hold of birth control

4. In most places, there are agencies that provide free birth control to people who can't afford it

5. Most schools teach some form of sex education- which should not substitute for parents telling their children the truth and calling the parts by their correct names

6. With rare exceptions, people know how pregnancy happens


In light of the above facts, THERE IS NO EXCUSE for becoming pregnant if a person doesn't want to become pregnant.

Abortion is NOT birth control. It is an after-the-fact reaction.

Women DO have the right to choose
Women DO have the right to control their bodies.

Women who do little or NOTHING to prevent a pregnancy (No, the withdrawal method is NOT reliable) are NOT controlling their bodies or exercising their right to choose. They are ABDICATING both.

Women cannot have it both ways: they cannot bitch and moan about having choices but then not make every effort to act on those choices.

As for feminists who continue to make this an issue of "bad men," and patriarchy, I wish they would SHUT UP and start putting some teeth into their assertions that their bodies are their own.

On the issue of whether a foetus is human, there is absolutely NO question it is. There is no possible way for a woman to become pregnant by anything other than another human; therefore, the resulting foetus is a human. Not a potential human; a human, just a really little one. I don't care if it looks like a chicken or a duck or a monkey, it is a human because it was created by two humans, even if those humans never meet.

Anyway, that part doesn't really matter. What matters is how bloody willing some people are to hide their laziness behind their rights.

I also can't stand the retorical "backroom abortion" crap. Way back in time, when birth control information was not only limited but illegal, yes there were back room abortions. WE don't live in those times. Using that kind of fear mongering is total bullshit.

Here's the bottom line. You're an adult! Be responsible.

- If you don't want a child this year, go on the pill.
- If you don't want one in the next 5 years, get Norplant or something like it.
- If you are sure you never want one, go have your tubes tied. It is a 20 minute operation and guarantees, with rare exceptions, that no child will be conceived.

If you lay yourself down and have unprotected sex, you've abdicated your right to choose and to control your body. End of Story. And NO, the man is not as responsible for the act as you are. It is YOUR body. If you say you have the right to choose and you say it is your body to control, then don't worry about his body; follow through. It isn't the guy's fault.

It is YOUR body. Protect it BEFORE the FACT.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Evangeline's Shoes

Evangeline. She is the personification of exodus and, although I know her history and the history of her people, my connection with her, what she represents for me, is exodus from childhood. My exodus was just as forced as hers.

The year I was 13, my familiy travelled to Nova Scotia, this time with the intent of really visiting, as we children were old enough to appreciate learning about the province. Just prior to our visit east, I had committed the great sin of using my own cash to purchase several new things, and particularly a pair of clogs that I loved but my mother detested. They were, to my 13 year old eyes, quite the fashion of the time. They were black with multicoloured polka-dots. I loved them for a variety of reasons, not he least of which was simply that I had bought them myself.

But the clogs were the source of unending friction from the moment I brought them home. My mother detested clogs in general, but worse, this pair were gaudy, in my mother’s perception, and not what ‘nice girls’ wore. She railed at me every time I put them on and loudly protested their inclusion on the trip.

Regardless that they were on my feet, they were somehow a reflection of her parenting abilities and that she was ‘just a farm kid’--I think they reminded her in some way of poverty and farm life: people wear them in the fields because the are durable--as she put it. And she wasn’t budging. It didn’t matter that I liked them or that they were in fashion. They were offensive to her and that was the end of the argument.In the end, the clogs made the trip with me and, perhaps to be perverse, I wore them everywhere.

On one of our day trips, we visited Grand Pré, the site of the ‘war’ against the Acadians. As we walked around Grand Pre that day, my mother explained parts of history and interest, placing particular emphasis on the statue of Evangeline, set in the forecourt of the church there. As one walks around the statue, Evangeline ages. She is a young woman on her ocean side and ancient away from the water.

Finally, my mother loosed us from the history lesson to gambol on the rocky beach. Not much of a beach if compared to the sandy coastlines of most travel brochures; it was strewn with large rocks, a few boulders that wash up from who knows where, broken shells, dead crabs wrapped in dry seaweed, all laid over a hidden, but probably lovely layer of sand. It bears noting too, that the waters of the Atlantic and Bay of Fundy rarely are warmer than 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Damn cold by any definition.

Undaunted, as children are by heat and cold and rocks, I headed off to the water after carefully placing my beloved clogs above the tide line. Clogs may be wonderful for fieldwork, but they are decidedly unsuited to walking on what passes for beaches in Nova Scotia.

I waded in the freezing water until my feet and legs were numb stumps, the upper parts of my body warmed by the brilliant sun that day. Eventually, child or not, I had to leave the water or risk temporary paralysis below the knees, regardless of the heat of the day. As my blue legs slowly warmed to pink, I scanned the beach where I had left my clogs. I was so looking forward to slipping my frozen toes over the warm wood.

Tidal shifts alter the beach, lengthening or shortening it, depending on time of day. The water had moved up and down the shoreline, and swept it into delicate new curves enhanced by filigrees of glistening kelp. My shoes were not where I had laid them but then I thought I was looking too near the water and headed towards the grassy edge of the beach. However, moving my search shoreward and then up and down the beach in every direction, produced no footwear. When my mother called ‘time’, I still had not found my shoes. I was devastated and confused. The water had never come high enough to swallow the shoes and, being midweek, the area was deserted except for my family; no one would have taken them, surely. My tears and yelps of upset had little effect on my mother, beyond frustrating her. No amount or volume of protest made an impact. She was on a timeline. Dinner would be on the table back at home. We had to leave. I could get another pair of shoes, wouldn’t I just grow up.

We left Grand Pré, me bawling and my mother steaming and my shoes, my wonderful, city girl fashion shoes, lost and now left behind leaving me treading over the hot pavement. Like Evangeline, I was young when I had first faced the water but was older and sadder, if not wiser, facing inland—leaving something precious behind. Every day for the remainder of our holiday, I begged my mother to take me back to the beach. It didn’t happen.

Many years later, and during the worst times of my relationship with my mother, I remembered this incident. I don’t know what thing provoked the memory – likely some frustrating unreasonableness of my mother’s (such unreasonableness became more and more pronounced as my mother aged and as the world changed). In a flash, a visceral, physical moment of shock, I discovered the long-lost clogs. Not literally, but by realization. A missing—or ignored—piece of the puzzle suddenly fell into place.

My mother had tossed my lovely clogs into the trash at the beach.

My memories rushed at me, running back in time, exposing such details and forgotten moments of that day that I had the desperate, childish wish to turn back the clock, as if wishing hard could make it so. I flashed back to that day at the beach, remembering the cold of the water and the warm day; the moment I placed my clogs securely between two large rocks, well away from the water; the hour spent in the frigid ocean and my mother’s then inexplicable, hushed conversations with my aunt. Suddenly, I understood the undertones and conspiratorial gestures. If I felt betrayed by the sea in my youth, I felt doubly sad to know I had mistrusted he innocent water and ignored, or maybe simply not noticed, my mother’s obvious guilt. Such is the trust of a child. Such is the end of childhood.

To this day, I have shoe issues. It takes me ages to find the ‘right’ pair, and once I find them, I either wear the shoes to death or leave them, untouched and pristine, in the back of my closet or a dark drawer somewhere, for years. I still fear losing my shoes. I make sure, if ever I must remove them, that they are in sight. A hallway crowded with footwear always provokes a small panic, especially if there are other shoes that look like mine, that I will lose my own in the chaos or that someone will take them, however inadvertently. And it raises the hairs on my neck when my mother, however innocently mentions my footwear for any reason.

Clogs of any colour or type, whether simple brown work shoes, elaborate Dutch not-to-be-worn souvenir shoes, department store versions or plastic garden clogs, always and immediately provoke the memory of that day at the beach, sometimes stopping my movement for a second as I contemplate that day. My memories are clear as photographs.

I have never spoken to my mother about those clogs. She is a much different person now. Although she is still rigid and dogmatic, she is old and she has finished raising her children. She still tells us what she thinks about every subject, any style of dress or speech or thought, but it is more opinion than direction now. And, she is much more prone to being embarrassed or saddened by memories of incidents in the past. So I remember and have a little private hurt but I keep it to myself. For now. Still, I think the real way to turn back time and really find those shoes—and to get back to a time before the storm of our relationship—will be to ask her about the clogs on the day I faced away from the water, like Evangeline, and walked inland.

More On Writing and Still Apologies to Steven King

BECOMING A WRITER AGAIN

After returning to school in September,2000 in the Freelance Writing program, this journalist wondered whether the term “writer”, the title I had so glibly used, really applied.

I had been out of school, and more importantly, writing nothing approximating journalistic pieces for over three years, when I took on the job of covering the Calgary International Film Festival as my first foray back into the world of interviewing and reporting.

The day of the interview began uneventfully enough; my daily newspaper was on time and there was a normalcy to the usual flurried chaos of my children readying themselves for their studies and heading off to three different schools.

That morning, my ritual of reading the newspaper cover to cover – yes, including the obits and various classifieds -- was interrupted by my puppy Charlie’s strange breathing and dry heaves. A minute later, the dog deposited the obviously annoying contents of his stomach beside the back door of the house. The inside of the back door, I should say, as I hadn’t got up from my chair fast enough to let him outside.

Cautiously, I approached the mustard-yellow mass he had ejected, immediately realising that the sock my youngest daughter had frantically searched for that morning had been eaten whole by my curious canine, and now lay in a steaming, drippy pile at the foot of my kitchen stairs.

I briefly considered washing the sock but quickly rejected that idea for the more rational and easily executed dump into our outdoor fire pit. The dry pile of twigs and pine needles was a suitably discouraging cover for the sock, and would later be the fodder for its immolation.

The last of my day’s disruptions over, I hoped, I descended to my basement office to collect the necessary items for an afternoon interview with the president of the film festival. I was proud of my preparations, and congratulated myself on being well organized. I hadn’t lost it, I thought, as I rifled through my limited wardrobe for the power suit.

Dressed professionally and having left myself ample time, I made a quick stop at the local drug-store to purchase a pristine cassette tape and a pair of gutsy batteries, both of which I inserted in my long neglected hand-held, reporter-babe recorder.

Nothing.

Poke, slap, shake.

Nothing.

Damn, it wasn’t the batteries after all. My trusty tape had given up the ghost. Not a problem, thought I; I am a professional, I’ll resort to taking good notes. I was still in plenty of time to scoop my daughter from school and head down town.

After dropping my eleven year old off with the instructions to not answer the phone or the door until her older sister arrived fifteen minutes later, I headed off. Happily armed with my notepad and camera, I arrived at Penny Lane mall and the festival office with 10 minutes to spare, only to be accosted again by faulty low technology. Impark’s coin op ticket dispenser ate my money but would not give up my pass. Thinking the little metal monster could take regurgitation lessons from my dog, I fed more quarters into its mouth, to no avail.

Frustrated and with time slipping by, I frantically looked around for assistance. The gods smiled upon me! There, approaching cautiously, probably due to the very large dark cloud hovering over me, came the parking lot monitor, ready to do battle. The surrender flag was raised in record time when the pitch of my now anxious voice threatened to puncture his eardrums. Desperate to escape, he hastily passed me an envelope with half an hour’s free time allowance scribbled beside the Impark address.

Excellent, I thought, as I raced back to my truck to retrieve my bag. But a final quick check revealed my notebook was nowhere to be found. Gasp! With seven minutes to spare, I raced west down 8th Avenue to a print shop, where I would beg for any type of paper. Minutes later, with a ratty pile of scraps in my hand, I arrived at the film office for my interview.

The interview itself went well and, and hour later, as I walked across the parking lot towards my truck, I congratulated myself again for handling the contingencies of the day. Suddenly, my knees buckled with the realisation that the one item I had remembered to bring, my camera, was laying at the bottom of my bag, unused. My interview subject was now in his fourth interview of the afternoon and would hardly welcome an interruption. I decided to return a day or two later for picture and headed for home.

Arriving home nearly two hours after I had left, I called for my children. To my horror I realised that I had left my youngest at home alone; her elder sister was babysitting the neighbour’s kids, I suddenly remembered. Not to worry, she said, she was fine and had Charlie the sock-eater to protect her.

Chagrined, but with the interview fresh in my mind and anxious to put it to paper, I headed to my office, broke out my brand-new copy of QuarkXpress – a free demo – and laid out my story. Two 17-inch tabloid column lengths later, I surveyed my work, making small edits here and there. A slight twitch of my hand and instantly the story was gone, at which time I remembered that Quark’s demo version was the full meal deal, with the exception of the SAVE function, which was disabled….

Cowed and frustrated by my futile writing efforts, and with my ego in tatters, I dragged myself upstairs, the site of the bleak, grey computer screen still dancing before my eyes. I am not a writer, I said to myself: I am a waitress; I am a truck driver; I am a house cleaner, but I am not a writer, I muttered with each heavy step up the stairs.

Paying no attention to where my feet were falling, and as my bare toes slid through a slimy, squishy pile at the landing, I learned the final, hard lesson of the day. Puppies are curious people and more, they will eat anything they deem delicious over and over again for as long as they can. As it had begun, my day ended with no article, no photo and an intact but semi-digested sock gracing the entrance to my kitchen.